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Protect the Health and Safety of Americans in Public Health Emergencies

HHS continues to improve the ability of the U.S. to address the health, public health, and human services impacts of public health emergencies and disasters.  HHS provides technical assistance, subject matter expertise, and direct program services to help states, tribes, territories, local communities, and other countries prepare for, respond to, and rapidly recover from disasters and emergencies.  HHS has developed a National Health Security Strategy to guide efforts to address the current gaps in national, state, local, and tribal preparedness and response capabilities as well as to build and foster more resilient communities and individuals.  HHS is establishing a comprehensive model for human services disaster planning, and continuing its work to prepare for, and respond to, international public health emergencies.

Foster Informed, Empowered Individuals and Communities

HHS supports community empowerment in preparation for and during emergencies by assisting with efforts to develop community plans, building community capabilities for shelter, maintaining food, providing medical care and other services, and promoting active community engagement in local decision-making.  HHS, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), administers the Federal Disaster Case Management Program to create a coordinated system that enables an individual or family to receive support after a Presidentially-declared disaster through a single point of contact for a wide variety of services provided by different organizations.  HHS also supports the Medical Reserve Corps, the national network of community-based groups of volunteers dedicated to strengthening public health, improving local emergency response capabilities, and building community resiliency. 

Support Preparedness and Response Efforts

HHS is ensuring that health care and public health communities can prepare for and provide appropriate and effective responses to public health emergencies, including biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological incidents, natural disasters, and extreme weather events.  HHS is promoting efforts to develop a strong, well-trained workforce ready to provide an effective response to disasters and emergencies.  Efforts include initiating a public-private partnership to develop specific tools and information related to promoting resilience in health care facilities, in the context of climate change impacts.  HHS is working to improve health care and behavioral health care providers’ ability to respond to mass care situations while ensuring provision of the highest standard of care possible for the greatest number of patients.  HHS is helping the public understand how they can care for themselves during an emergency, reducing demands on health care providers, and ensuring that resources are invested where they are most needed.  HHS is promoting an effective system for developing, manufacturing, and dispensing drugs, medical devices, and medical supplies for use in response to public health emergencies, as well as strategies for quickly obtaining scarce resources such as blood and other items that cannot be stockpiled. HHS is encouraging information sharing, surveillance, and coordinated action to reduce the emerging threats from common pathogens in food, water, air, and biological products (blood, organs, tissue, and vaccines).  HHS is working to improve communications across all sectors, from government emergency response systems to private sector and community-based organizations, especially with underserved populations, such as those with limited English proficiency and individuals with disabilities, as well as special populations such as children with special health care needs and pregnant women.  HHS maintains and supports the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, a unique, deployable cadre of more than 6,500 uniformed officers with expertise in public health and emergency response.

Support Recovery Efforts

HHS actively supports the development of preparedness plans and community resilience before disaster strikes or emergencies occur, in order to help communities recover successfully. To support recovery needs in a better, more coordinated way, the federal government worked with state, local, tribal, and territory agencies, non-government organizations, and private industry to craft a National Disaster Recovery Framework led by FEMA. The framework recommends roles and activities for everyone involved in recovery including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private businesses, and families. HHS’s role is to coordinate federal agencies that can help local, state, and tribal agencies restore public health, behavioral health, and health care systems, as well as social services networks, during and after emergencies.

Develop and Implement Evidence-based Strategies for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

HHS is working to ensure that all systems that support national health security are based upon the best available science, evaluation, and quality improvement methods.  HHS is developing a research and evaluation agenda to support identification of standards, policy, and guidance to increase the knowledge base for preparedness, response, and recovery.